Track Specs: .363-mile oval / 125-lap feature
Berry’s start/finish: 3rd/1st
Eckes’ start/finish: 8th/9th
HICKORY, N.C. – Saturday night’s Hickory Soup Kitchen Race to End Hunger 250 for the CARS Late Model Tour was a wild, caution-filled affair, and JR Motorsports Late Model star Josh Berry wound up in Victory Lane with the No. 88 Speedco Chevrolet after a tense battle with Deac McCaskill. The victory was Berry’s fourth in CARS Racing Tour action, which ties him with Christopher Bell atop the all-time victory list in the series.
Berry, who started third, rode in the top five as polesitter Landon Huffman and McCaskill tussled early. R.D. Smith, who came from seventh to battle for the lead, was running second with Berry close behind on lap 67. As the two exited Turn 2, Berry was tucked on the right rear fender of Smith’s car when the latter moved up a little for Turn 3. The resulting contact turned Smith into the wall and damaged the left front corner of Berry’s Speedco Chevrolet, and Berry nearly came to pit road to fix it, but stayed out. It turned out to be a good decision.
With 25 laps remaining and Berry still in third place, he hooked up with McCaskill and Matt Piercy for a stirring run to the checkered flag. Piercy crashed and was sent to the rear of the field, leaving Berry to chase down McCaskill. He did, and immediately started to pull away en route to the victory. He had to hold on through a rash of restarts as the race neared its end, including one with 12 laps to go where McCaskill got past, but he gathered it up and made the pass of McCaskill for the victory with a handful of laps remaining.
Eckes started eighth and moved up to fifth, where he settled to save his tires. As the laps wound down, action on the track picked up and caught the young driver out. The race had several caution periods, and near the end of the race, a car racing for sixth place late in the going made contact with Eckes’ No. 1 JR Motorsports Chevrolet and spun him. A little later, another driver spun Eckes into the Turn 3 fence. He fell back to ninth and limped it home from there.
Eckes earlier became the seventh driver to attempt both the Super Late Model and Late Model Stock races on the same night in the CARS Racing Tour, and nearly won the Super Late Model event before falling late to the eventual winner, 14-year-old Raphael Lessard, in a battle of teenagers. Eckes, bogged by lapped traffic in the run to the checkered, finished second.
Behind Berry and McCaskill in the Late Model Stock race came Tommy Lemons Jr., Austin McDaniel and Huffman. Berry and Eckes will race May 14 in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series at Motor Mile Speedway in Virginia. Next action for the CARS Tour will be May 21 at Southern National Motorsports Park in Rougemont, N.C.
Josh Berry, driver No. 88 Speedco Chevrolet team:
“Saturday night was definitely not easy for us. We felt like we had a good car during practice, but at the start of the race it just seemed like the track lost a lot of grip, and everyone began searching. I felt like I spent the first half of the race trying to manage my tires, keep track position, and search for a better line around the track which was not easy. After the contact with the No. 16, I honestly thought it was going to take us out of contention. I was worried that something would rub the tire or the damage would just be too much, but it really didn’t seem the change the car. The outside groove was working pretty well at the end of the race, so I knew to get the lead I was going to have to muscle my way past the 08 (McCaskill). We raced each other pretty hard, and once I cleared him I was surprised we were able to gap them as much as we did. The victory Saturday night was probably one of my best races personally and one of the favorite wins of my career. Thanks to Speedco for supporting me, and it's always fun to win in this series, but especially here because this place has been pretty special to me.”